CAPPA class builds affordable homes for older residents

UTA design/build students work on four homes in Wynn Terrace Senior Cottage Community

Friday, Nov 17, 2023 • Herb Booth : contact

Wynn Terrace groundbreaking
The Wynn Terrace project groundbreaking.

A University of Texas at Arlington design/build class in the College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs is collaborating with the Housing Channel of Fort Worth, the city of Arlington and MKG Homes to build four houses in east Arlington that will be available for lease to seniors.

The four homes will be part of a master plan that includes a dozen homes as part of the Wynn Terrace Senior Cottage Community. Brad McCorkle, adjunct assistant professor of architecture and adviser in the design/build program, said one of the important outcomes of this research project is to better understand the potential of improved building construction techniques.

“This project combines what students have learned in the classroom with practical, on-the-job experience in designing and building something that will answer some senior living challenges like finding affordable housing options,” McCorkle said. “The four units constructed by students are to be built to meet different certification standards, using various construction techniques, systems and equipment.”

He said these standards include a baseline house that meets 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, an EnergyStar house, a Department of Energy Zero Energy Ready Home, and a Passive House Institute-certified home using insulated concrete foamwork.

“We’ll monitor data on cost, energy, water usage, indoor air quality and more,” McCorkle said. “The data collected can be used to guide how our program is built moving forward and can be shared with builders and municipalities to influence future affordable development.”

Donna VanNess, president of Housing Channel, said older residents are particularly affected by the growing affordable housing crisis. According to the Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers, the median income for Texas seniors on a fixed income is $25,601. A renter must earn $46,889 annually to afford the current fair market rent of $1,172 for a two-bedroom apartment, she said.

“With a majority of their fixed income spent on increasing rent prices, seniors are now ‘aging into poverty,’ living one crisis away from eviction and homelessness due to lack of affordable housing options,” VanNess said.

Located in east Arlington, the new “micro-community” will have a dozen one-bedroom homes under 600 square feet, with half of the units reserved at below-market rental prices for seniors who meet lower-income guidelines. Other community amenities include individual patios, a landscaped community gathering space and covered parking.

Brad McCorkle
Brad McCorkle

Design and construction costs for the Wynn Terrace project are estimated at $1.5 million, which will be subsidized in part by $650,000 in federal Home Investments Partnerships funding. The new homes are expected to be available for rent by the summer of 2024.

VanNess said that the organizations powering the Wynn Terrace development hope the project will be studied and replicated in other areas of Arlington and across the region.

“There is often negativity around the term ‘affordable housing,’ but the fact is that increased access to affordable housing benefits everyone in the form of reduced homelessness and transiency,” VanNess said. “Innovative thinking, collaboration and effective public policy are essential to addressing this critical community need.”

The Housing Channel is a leading housing nonprofit organization in North Texas with a 30-year history of revitalizing neighborhoods and providing quality affordable housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income families and individuals with special housing needs. Its goal is to help people build wealth through homeownership. Other project contributors and donors include Acme Brick, Builders First Source, Ambit Polyurethane, Kelly Moore, Huber Engineered Woods, James Hardie Siding and Tamlyn.